Online Safety Tips For The Holidays

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Here’s the article GSWS originally submitted for the San Diego County Optometric Society December 2016 newsletter (The San Diego View) ‘The Tech Corner’.

WHAT SCAMMERS ASK SANTA FOR DURING THE HOLIDAYS
By Dave Tuckman from Golden State Web Solutions, Inc. (www.GSWS.com)

The holidays are a special time. This is when friends and family make the time to get together and build the memories that last a lifetime. It’s also a very busy time, as we add a lot of shopping, cooking, travelling and other tasks that bring us all together. All of this makes us even busier, and keeps us a bit more distracted than normal Hackers know this and use it to their advantage. We will be more extended, stressed out, buying products we aren’t as familiar, while at the same time – looking for the best deal possible. Knowing all of this, we’ve put together a list of some tips and tricks to try/help keep you safe as possible through the holiday season.

  1. AVOID USING PUBLIC COMPUTERS OR PUBLIC WIRELESS ACCESS FOR ONLINE SHOPPING
    Despite being perceived as ‘more accommodating’ a publicly shared computer or wireless internet connection will essentially be as clean as everyone before you left it. A computer be infected with malware or a compromised wireless Internet connection could allow someone to steal personal information (credit card, username/password account info, etc.) when used. It’s safest to use your computer/Internet connect or one from someone you know and trust.
  1. PAY WITH A CREDIT CARD (NOT A DEBIT CARD)
    You are better protected when using a credit card vs. a debit card to make online purchases. Debit cards will immediately withdraw the money from your account. Were something to happen, you would need to work with the bank directly not only report the malevolent activity, but go through the steps to get the money in your account restored. This can potentially tie your money up for an extended period of time. Credit card purchases will go to your statement, where it can be reviewed prior to payment. Additionally, credit cards are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act, helping to limit liability if your information is stolen or used without authorization.
  1. KNOW WHO YOU ARE BUYING FROM
    Know who your seller is. Using Amazon as an example, some products are purchased directly from Amazon, while others are 3rd party resellers that act as merchants from within Amazon. On eBay, everyone is a 3rd party seller (and could be from anywhere in the world). Purchasing on Craigslist can be the most fragile option of all. On any of these (or other sites), take the time to ensure you know who you are purchasing from and where they are located. One helpful tip is, send the seller a simple inquiry. Just a generic question and see what type of response you get back. Did they reply, did they reply in a friendly, timely manner and properly address your questions? That will give you a better idea who you are looking to conduct a transaction with.
  1. IF IT’S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS
    Scammers will try to take advantage of your innocent search for the best deal. Sometimes we just look at the price and find out the hard way, the deal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Lots of times, these type of deals will come as emails, so keep an eye out. If something doesn’t feel right or if the transaction doesn’t seem fair, it’s probably a scam.
  1. CLOSELY CHECK YOUR CREDIT CARD STATEMENTS
    As sure as Tuesday follows Monday, your holiday season will be followed by the credit card statement that ran up the charges through the holidays. That statement will have a greater quantity of transactions. Those transactions might be higher dollar amounts than normal, and come from places you normally wouldn’t purchase from. Don’t presume everything is correct. Take the time to look at each transaction and confirm it is legitimate. Credit card companies give a limited period of time to report a dispute. Hackers are hoping you won’t take the time to audit everything close and will just pay the bill.

Got questions, or would like additional information?
You can reach Dave directly at (619-905-4468) or email dave@GSWS.com.